But does Sharif have the vision and capacity?
A historic task awaits Nawaz Sharif. What is urgently needed is to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to end the virtual blockade of the tiny gulf state. It is also of utmost importance for the region to bring the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran within manageable limits. Presently the Emir of Kuwait is trying to play the role of the mediator as he had done in 2014.But the measures taken against Qatar this time are far more damaging and would harm the country more seriously. Despite the pressures, Qatar remains defiant and has rejected calls for a change in its policies.
What is needed is for everyone to play according to rules. No country has a right to dictate policies to others. In case of a dispute this should be removed through talks or arbitration rather than recourse to blockades, interference or use of force. While Qatar’s support for proxies in Syria or Egypt is questionable, so is Saudi Arabia’s backing for its own proxies in a number of countries. For peace in the region and elsewhere proxy wars have to be brought to an end by all and sundry.
Turkey is unhappy over the treatment meted out to Qatar but is treading cautiously. Turkish Parliament has meanwhile allowed the government to send troops to Turkey’s base in Qatar pursuant to an earlier agreement. Pakistan’s National Assembly has passed a resolution calling on the government not to be a party to the dispute but play a role to bring the two countries together. Friendly relations with all Muslim countries being a corner stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy it has to act as a fire-fighter. Pakistan being the second biggest Muslim country and a democracy should use its soft power to play the role of an arbiter.
But does Nawaz Sharif have the vision and political ingenuity to play the role? His penchant for developing family relations with friendly rulers and seeking personal benefits puts serious limits on his performance. Sharif’s personalised diplomacy has weakened the country’s position as an arbiter.